Bonding with your baby through nursing or breastfeeding is a special gift only a mother can give. Not only are you nourishing their bodies, you’re creating a special relationship with them during their first weeks and months. Breastfeeding can be a very rewarding endeavor for new moms, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Tongue and lip ties are a common issue that can make breastfeeding difficult for babies. Continue reading to learn more about what tongue-ties are and some solutions that may help you and your baby!
To put it very basically, when the skin (called a frenulum or frenum) that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth is too short or tight, it’s called a tongue-tie. When a baby has a tongue-tie, it limits the movement of their tongue, making it difficult to stretch their tongues out and over their gums. This means that when nursing, a tongue-tie prevents baby from drawing enough of the areola into their mouth. Because of this, it leads to a bad latch which is the root of many nursing problems for baby and mama. The baby doesn’t get enough milk and the mama often experiences a painful latch and sometimes cracked or chapped nipples will result.
The skin in between your top lip and gums can also cause problems for breastfeeding families. When that skin (also called a frenulum or frenum) is too short or tight, it’s called a lip-tie. Just like the tongue-tie restricts movement, a lip-tie is another common breastfeeding hurdle. The most common complication of a lip tie is the upper lip curling under and preventing an effective and efficient latch.
Tongue-Ties: What to look for
Being diagnosed by a professional is the best way to know if your baby has either kind of tie. But there are some things you can keep your eyes out for too.
- Struggles to move or lift tongue
- Can’t stay latched
- Shallow latch
- Painful latch for mom
- Not gaining enough weight because not getting enough milk (weighted feeds in conjunction with a lactation consultant are a great way to track this)
- Baby makes noises when nursing such as clicking, popping, or smacking
- Milk leaks from baby’s mouth at corners when nursing
- Baby becomes frustrated during breastfeeding
- Very long nursing or feeding sessions
- Baby always seems hungry and/or fussy
Breastfeeding Tips for Tongue-Ties
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
- Reach out to a certified lactation consultant for help
- Join a mom’s group and ask questions
- Do some reading from online nursing experts. We recommend La Leche League International
- Switching nursing positions until you find one that works for you
- Be patient with yourself and your baby
One of the most common reasons that a mom gives up on breastfeeding are tongue-ties or lip-ties. And if deciding to stop breastfeeding is the right decision for you, it’s okay! But if you want to try to continue breastfeeding, there are many resources that can help. Don’t forget that even though breastfeeding may be one of the most natural things in the world, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy!
A possible and common solution for tongue and lip ties is called a Frenectomy. Some moms refer to this procedure as having a tongue or lip tie “clipped.” During the procedure, the restricting frenulum will be removed after your child’s mouth has been numbed. Removing the tie will allow more movement from the tongue and only require a brief healing period.
The procedure may be done with a scalpel, medical scissors, or a laser. The good news is that your local pediatric dentist, Dr. Carson Cruise, can do this procedure for you using a CO2 laser!
Frequently Asked Questions:
How long does it take to work?
- The Journal of Human Lactationsay that within 24-hours, 80 percent of breastfeeding sessions were improved. It is important to remember though that for many babies, a healing period should be expected. Tongue and oral therapy exercises will also be important to promote healing and produce a proper latch.
What to do if you think your baby has a tie
- Pediatric dentists, like Cruise, can diagnose and treat tongue and lip-ties. Feel free to call us at (256) 766-0270 to talk more about this procedure. After all, we are experts when it comes to tiny mouths! We love helping mamas and babies along their breastfeeding journey – including diagnosing and correcting tongue and lip ties. A team based approach between Dr. Cruise and one of our fantastic local lactation consultants can be an extraordinarily effective way to manage these tough issues for baby and mama.
If an oral tie is a problem when breastfeeding, we want you to know that you’re not alone! Call us today to see how we can help.